Local musicians struggle with income

An empty stage before the Green Country Jazz Festival performance. This was the last jazz ensemble performance before the COVID-19 pandemic.

When there is a global pandemic like COVID-19, there have to be many societal, governmental and economic changes in the country to tame the pandemic that is the coronavirus. Some people will lose work and quarantine as much as possible. Law officials have to take action and enforce businesses to shut down temporarily. With how late many people responded to this pandemic, the virus now has to run its course before people can return to their normal lifestyles.

Work is hard to find in times like these, especially for those people who rely on performing music to acquire their routine income. Local artists are taking quite the hit from this virus, as it almost completely negates their job in music performance.

One man that will have to make some life changes for the meantime is Chris Peters, Tulsa alumnus. Peters graduated with a jazz studies degree and is an active drummer in the Tulsa music scene. Peters said that his monthly income will likely be cut in half due to his lack of work. Because of this, he is an advocate for performing musicians to take their business online so people can donate through virtual tip jars.

“Musicians have been live streaming concerts on Facebook and other platforms and will list their tag on Square Cash, Venmo and PayPal for a virtual tip jar,” said Peters. “Donating even a few dollars can help these musicians eat and pay rent. Another way to support musicians is taking a lesson from someone offering lessons through online platforms. I also know Bandcamp is waiving any cut they take from artists, so the artists can get 100 percent of the sales. If you can, buy music directly from the artists.”

The music business is already a hard field to make a profit of off but it is especially hard when your sole job is based on performance. Peters already has other ways of making money, but he is very aware that performing musicians will struggle to find other ways of making money during this time.

“If your income is solely based on performing, I think it will be hard to get your foot in the door for other music-related jobs,” said Peters. “If you were already doing things like recording, mixing, mastering and teaching, then you probably have services at your disposal to help you adapt to the current situation, and a client base to help keep you afloat.”

While this is a time of disappointment for performing musicians, it can be looked upon as a good opportunity to perfect their craft in their homes. Dr. Clark Gibson, director of jazz studies, said that isolation is not too unfamiliar to most musicians.

“Quarantine comes naturally to musicians since many of us are used to spending hours alone in a practice room,” said Gibson. “Now, all we can do is practice, write, maybe work on some business stuff that needs to get caught up on like resumes, websites and so forth.”

The musicians that are performing regularly are not the only people in the music business that are losing work. For a gig to run smoothly, the band or the venue must provide a person or multiple people to help run the sound board. Nick Pitre, Wagoner junior, not only actively plays bass for multiple bands in the area, but he also runs sound.

“I was normally bringing in anywhere from $300 to $450 a month, but now I have no gigs for the next few months,” said Pitre. “Lessons are the only option for me right now. I run sound on the side, but no bands are playing.”

Bands may not be performing live music any time soon, but this does not necessarily get rid of the importance of music in this society. Both musicians and other people need music in these confusing times, as it makes life a little more blissful amongst all of the confusion. Pitre appreciates music in dark times.

“Music is what we can use to escape all this mess for comfort. It is nice to have something like music that can distract us while we are in quarantine,” said Pitre. “You can’t kill music. You can shut down the world, but music will remain.”

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